Hard-hit British Airways promises more flights through strike
LONDON (AP) _ British Airways began using charter jets and cabin crews from other airlines today to handle thousands of disgruntled passengers while its flight attendants struck for the second day.
With those leased aircraft, British Airways said it was operating about 25 percent more flights than Wednesday, when some of its flight attendants walked off the job or phoned in sick in a pay dispute.
The company said 147 flights leaving London had been canceled today. The airline hoped to fly 35,000 people out of London today, a sizable improvement from Wednesday but down by 20,000 from a normal day.
``We intend to carry even more on Friday,″ British Airways spokesman Dave Wilson said. ``We’ve got far more staff on duty than anticipated.″
Many of the company’s own jets sat silently on the runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.
``You can call them strike-busters _ we call them a way to get customers from A to B, and customers are our priority,″ British Airways spokesman Jamie Bowden said of the leased jets.
Some of the 10 borrowed planes came from British Airways’ German subsidiary, Deutsche BA; European Air Charter and British World Airways, he said.
Even with the added flights, tens of thousands of passengers faced more hours of aggravating delays.
Hundreds of flights, both outbound and inbound from Heathrow and the No. 2 London airport, Gatwick, have already been canceled during the first two days of the three-day strike scheduled to end early Saturday.
Negotiators for the airline and the union have no plans to meet and discuss a final solution to the dilemma, Wilson said this morning.
Unlucky travelers were caught in the middle.
The flights canceled out of Heathrow and Gatwick were followed up by canceled return flights, because no airplanes were in place to come back.
British Airways was unable to fly London-Phoenix on Wednesday, for example, so it could not fly Phoenix-London today.
Franz Beauzil of Germany said he got the runaround from British Airways on his plans to return tonight from a family vacation.
Beauzil was told Monday night that his flight out of Phoenix was still scheduled. But he ended up spending hours at the airport Wednesday, only to learn he would have to fly out 12 hours earlier than scheduled on another airline.
``That’s stupid,″ Beauzil said. ``I’ve lost two days _ one day walking through the airport and tomorrow we leave at 9 o’clock in the morning.″
British Airways has offered a pay increase to the 8,500 members of the British Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Association.
But the Transport and General Workers Union, which is negotiating for the flight attendants, says the company will take away any gains with changes in work rules that will leave the employees with less money in their pocket.
Another 3,500 flight attendants, represented by a breakaway union, Cabin Crew 89, have settled a wage deal with the airline and are crossing the picket lines. British Airways said some strikers were also defying the walkout and many more were calling in sick _ so they wouldn’t have to strike or to work.
The Transport and General Workers Union said flight attendants had shown solidarity and predicted British Airways would lose $330 million in the walkout.
The transport union’s national secretary for civil aviation, George Ryde, suggested British Airways is trying to break the union _ after threatening to penalize strikers on the job and lockout any strikers who refuse to return to normal operations when this walkout ends.
British Airways disputes the charge of union-busting. Asked about its losses, the carrier would only say they are ``substantial.″